Towards a biological staging model for operable non-small cell lung cancer
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Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in North America and Europe. Despite improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease the prognosis remains poor, the overall 5-year survival being 4-14%. An increased understanding of the molecular biology of the disease may identify novel targets for drug development. We evaluated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), HER-2/neu, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2, MMP-9, p53 and bcl-2 expression and microvessel density (MVD) in patients who underwent surgery with curative intent in our department between 1991 and 1996. Co-expression of EGFR/MMP-9, MVD and bcl-2 were found to be independent prognostic variables, which allowed prediction of patient outcome independent of surgical stage. Other prognostic factors identified in our series were gender, surgical stage, platelet count, extent of necrosis, the hypoxia marker carbonic anhydrase-9 and beta-catenin. In collaboration with groups in Oxford and Greece, we were also able to establish the angiogenic growth factors vascular endothelial growth factor and platelet-derived endothelial growth factor as prognostic variables. The inter-relationships between these factors are currently being examined in an expanded patient series. Through this work we hope to be able to construct an integrated biological prognostic model which can be tested in prospective studies. This work has identified several potential targets for novel therapeutic agents currently in development.
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